Ban Faqiran Stupa islamaabad

Ban Faqiran Stupa is Islamabad’s oldest structure

Buddhism’s Pilgrimage site from late Gandhara Times, Ban Faqiran Stupa ruins on the Margalla Hills close to Shah Allah Ditta, is Islamabad’s most closely guarded secret. 

No one, except the most inquisitive know about this archaeological wonder, that points to Islamabad’s Buddhist past

Ban Faqiran Stupa History

The Buddhist stupa of Ban Faqiran was most likely built before the 5th century, when Buddhism reigned supreme in North of the Indus Valley, especially Pakistani region.

Apparently, Islamabad was inhabited back in the 2nd century when Kushan rulers build the Ban Faqiran Buddhist Stupa on Margalla Hills.

ban faqiran stupa islamabad
Ban Faqiran Buddhist Stupa Islamabad in the distance

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Margalla Hills had a stupa, considering the earliest Ghandara University was just across from this  ridge, 3 thousand years back.

ban faqiran stupa islamabad

Where is Ban Faqiran Stupa?

This Stupa is built on top of the ridge going from Islamabad to Dharmarajika Stupa in Taxila, on Margalla Hills.

ban faqiran stupa islamabad
View of Shah Allah Ditta from Ban Faqiran Stupa Islamabad

You’d not be able to get there without proper directions, so I attached the Google Maps route.

Google Maps Ban Faqiran Buddhist Stupa

ban faqiran stupa islamabad
Ban faqiran Buddhist Stupa Islamabad google-maps

Why go to Ban Faqiran Buddhist Stupa?

Ban Faqiran is the oldest built structure in Islamabad that is still intact.

The previous oldest structure was Shah Allah Dittta Meditation Caves of Sadhu ka Bagh

Ban Faqiran Buddhist Stupa Margalla Islamabad
Ban Faqiran Buddhist Stupa Margalla Islamabad

How to get there?

Ban Faqiran is one kilometer from Shah Allah Ditta, and the rocks from Shah Allah Ditta Caves were used to build the original stupa.

You can also see the top of the tourist shed of Ban Faqiran, from the Shah Allah Ditta Parking.

If you follow the leveled trail, it will take you one hour, on an easy hike.

  • About 15 min into the hike comes a Y-intersection. You must take the track that goes right.
  • If you take the track that goes left, you would reach the top of another ridge of Margalla hills Islamabad that overlooks Taxila and Islamabad both.
  • It takes one hour to get to the Ban Faqiraan stupa on a simple hike. People up to 60 can slowly walk to the top of this ridge. I parked my car in the tea stall at Shah Allah Ditta parking.

Alternatively, if you go through the lower track that passes through a guest house, some Sheppard’ huts then you will get there in 45 min but breathing heavier.

There are some vicious dogs on the lower trail as well, so keep your stone and sticks handy.

I always carry a belt knife whenever I talk on Margalla hills and recommend that you do too, especially because you meet quite a few axes carrying illegal loggers, and everyone should have some protection.

What to see at Ban Faqiran Stupa

Shah Allah Ditta was once a huge fruit garden, till the time it was taken over by the government – then disaster struck and it now getting messier every passing day.

The track to Ban Faqiran is at a 90-degree angle toward the left of the road while traveling from D-12 Sector.

Ban Faqiran Buddhist Stupa Margalla Islamabad
View of Taxila from Ban Faqiran Stupa

Ban Faqeeran literally means the pond of ascetics.

  • It once had ablution pond 200 meters from the crest of Margalla ridge on the Taxila side.
  • Mughal rulers built a mosque close to the pond in the 15th century, but is now in ruins.

Shah Allah Ditta route toward Dharmarajika and the other Buddhist holy site in Taxila valley was the fastest and the easiest to get across.

  • This is a nice spot to see the Sunset and Sunrise from.
Ban Faqiran Buddhist Stupa Margalla Islamabad
Ban Faqiran Stupa Steps

My visit to the Buddhist Stupa in Islamabad

When I reached Ban Faqiran Buddhist stupa, I saw that the central dome had be rebuilt but not the original height Stupas’ are at.

The base of the stupa had be plastered but was falling apart again.

This religious site was cordoned off with mesh wire and there was a prefabricated guard room there, with the guard missing.

Several arrow heads, coins and artifacts were discovered from this site dating back to the 2nd century.

The funny thing is that there was a coin found at this spot with emperor Ayyub Khan on it as well – talk about an over inflated ego.

Ban Faqiran Stupa View of Islamabad
Ban Faqiran Stupa View of Islamabad
  • These artifacts are placed in Islamabad Museum Shakarparian.

This was probably the preferred route to reach Taxila city from the East, as the one through the Margalla Pass was too circuitous.

After sitting a while on the stupa peering into the smog covered the evening sky, I saw the ablution pond down below.

  • It is said that there was a staircase from the stupa site all the way to the ablution pond, but I did not see any.

I also could not make out the 15th-century mosque in the vicinity.

After the Sun set toward East, I came running back to my car in 20 min.

I picked up a Loquat tree from the guest house down below, the Gardner there was nice to give it to me free.

  • There is also a mini zip line at a restaurant close by called the Sadhu’s retreat.

The word Sadhu comes from the name of the fruit garden that once stood here and it was managed by a Hindu sadhu who suddenly vanished in 1960.

Ban Faqiran Stupa top; Sunset View of Taxila
Ban Faqiran Stupa top; Sunset View of Taxila

Who all can walk to Ban Faqiran Stupa

Returning to Ban Faqiran, this hike is not for older people as the climb gets a little steep at certain spots.

Most of the and around this Buddhist Stupa and the oldest historical site in Islamabad has been bought by land developers, so go see this place now before it becomes another urban jungle.

Ban Faqiran Stupa top; Ancient Well and ablution pond down below
Ban Faqiran Stupa top; Ancient Well and ablution pond down below

Conclusion

Based on my personal research on what I have read and seen around Islamabad, Islamabad and the tribes around Islamabad at the foothills of the Himalayas and Potohar, were Buddhist until the 7th century and suddenly loosely converted to Islam in the 10th century.

I base my conclusion on the evidence that there are no Hindu temples around Islamabad of the millennium between 5th century AD and 1500 AD.

If anyone thinks differently, please write in the comments section and call me +923005111523 if you want to hike to the site with me.

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